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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Harvard Hopes To Cure Snafu At 'Clambake'

By Charles E. Shepard

If you piece together the whole story, it is apparent that last year's Commencement Week "clambake" was nothing for Harvard or the Class of 1976 to be proud of.

The then-seniors returned from the clambake--which at $8 a person is this year's most costly Commencement event--angered by Harvard's miscalculations. Some described agonizing delays which left them and their relatives standing in line for up to three hours, a claim countered yesterday by a University official, who asserted the wait never exceeded one hour.

From Harvard's perspective, the University's mistakes were magnified by the almost lemming-like reluctance of seniors and their families to leave stifling, overcrowded Palmer-Dixon, where the clambake was held, for the more comfortable outdoors.

Anxious to avoid another debacle, Harvard has taken several steps in the last 12 months to make this year's clambake run smoothly, according to Victor A. Koivumaki '68, associate for classes and reunions of the Associated Harvard Alumni.

Koivumaki, who works out of Wadsworth House, said yesterday he will be "extremely disappointed" if anyone has to wait over 30 minutes this year.

Koivumki cited the following changes from last year:

*tickets are being distributed now, long before the June 14 event. Last year each family had to wait in line to pick up their tickets, before getting food. This is where the bottleneck developed. Koivumaki said because of the "herd instinct", entire families stood in the ticket line last year, although only one person had to.

*Harvard will erect a tent with capacity for 400 people outside Palmer-Dixon, which holds 1200. Last year 2650 people attended the clambake, and, because there seemed to be a "psychological barrier" to going outside and eating, many had to wait while the first arrivals ate their lobster or roast beef dinners, Koivumaki said.

Koivumaki predicted the tent would not only shelter more people but also draw others outside. "It will show them," he said, "that there was a designated place outside" to eat. Last year, without this, people were loath to go outside, although it was "hotter than hell" in Palmer-Dixon, Koivumaki said.

However, there may still be problems this year.

For one, last year's snafu was in part the result of most of the seniors arriving with their families at approximately the same time.

One such student, James W. Reining '76, said yesterday he arrived at the event shortly after its 5 p.m. opening and had to wait two hours. "The line already stretched from Palmer-Dixon to the back of Briggs Cage," he said.

Richard J. Doherty '76, who came later, said yesterday he waited between 45 and 60 minutes. On the other hand, the people in front of Reinig "waited an incredible amount of time," Reinig said.

Also, if the weather turns bad, the seniors and their relatives will have to pack into the courts and under the tent. "If you think what you heard about last year was bad," Koivumaki said yesterday, "you should have heard about the year it rained.

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